Do you know who I am? Do you know who Chris is? These are the questions that America's sweetheart, Reese Witherspoon (:50), would ask were she in the podcast studio with us instead of locked up in an Atlanta drunk tank. And though we had much to say about the Academy Award winner's transgressions down south, we actually had a great deal more to say about television. First, some light weekend reading got Chris thinking about Howard Hawkes and the means of Hollywood production, which (a) was actually much lighter than it sounds, and (b) dovetailed quite nicely with a piece I wrote last week about how cable's niche targeting and fan service may be limiting future greatness (7:10). But luckily we still have plenty of present greatness to debate, so we spent plenty of time raving over a truly phenomenal episode of Game of Thrones (23:25) and puzzling our way through a knotty, occasionally ugly episode of Mad Men (35:45). Now if you'll excuse us we're going to lock ourselves in an office with Stan Rizzo and 100 takeout menus, and we're not coming out until this pitch for our separatist moon colony series is in tip-top shape and ready to go. (It'll make more sense if you listen. Honest.)
Chris and I tend to agree a lot — always the formula for a successful listening experience! — so this week came as a bit of a surprise. He loved Game of Thrones on Sunday night, I thought it was a little all over the place. I adored Mad Men's Season 6 premiere, he thought it was pokey. I don't know if core disagreements like that make for a good friendship, but they made for a lively discussion! We tore through our inaugural Thrones power rankings (sorry, Joffrey's Tailor: you did not make the top 10!) and ripped into the idea that Theon has to hang around — in this case literally — just because he's still alive in the books. Wandering from Westeros to the East Side of Manhattan, we had a ton to say about Don Draper's wonderfully weird vacation in Hawaii and the specter of death that seemed to travel back home with him. I don't care what Chris says about things being draggy or on the nose — that wonderful phone call between Stan and Peggy reminded me of the good old days, when my fellow Philadelphian and I could laugh about Big Sean and focus on the good times.
With any luck, Andrew Sarris, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83, will now assume his rightful and undisputed place in the critical pantheon as the patron saint of the film buff/movie nerd/pop-culture junkie.
A thoughtful and erudite film critic whose career spanned over 50 years — which he described as “a lifetime in the darkness” — Sarris is probably best known for his landmark 1968 book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968. In it, he articulated his version of auteurist film criticism. Adapted from French film critics like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, this theory was grounded in the belief that a film’s director was its chief creative force. In his brilliant introduction to The American Cinema, titled “Toward a Theory of Film History,” Sarris argued: